As MIPEX expanded from its fourth edition (2015) to fifth edition (2020), Germany is no longer ranked in the International Top Ten because more MIPEX countries have a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to integration than Germany, particularly to provide newcomers with a sense of long-term security.
Firstly, Germany was overtaken by a few newer destination countries (Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain) which made greater improvements in recent years and adopted a more comprehensive approach than Germany. Secondly, MIPEX 2020 has expanded 56 countries worldwide, including Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, which outrank Germany in providing greater discrimination protections and greater security for reuniting families, permanent residents and naturalising citizens. As other countries have learned from international best practice and caught up with Germany, German integration policies are now relatively average for Western European/OECD countries.
Lastly, the new MIPEX 2020 looks more equally at the three key dimensions underlying a country’s approach to integration: equal rights, equal opportunities and equal security for immigrants and national citizens. While Germany’s support for equal opportunities is similar to the average Western European/OECD country, its policies on family reunification, permanent residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination leave non-EU immigrants unfavourably insecure about their future in the country and only go halfway to provide them with equal basic rights.
As a result, with a score of 58/100, Germany’s integration policies are ranked by the 2020 MIPEX core indicators as nearly ‘slightly favourable’, but only for ‘temporary integration.’ Germany’s ‘temporary integration’ approach is similar to its neighbouring Western European countries. Among these, Germany offers greater rights and support for equal opportunities than neighbouring Austria, Denmark or Switzerland.
The main weakness in Germany’s ‘temporary integration’ approach is that non-EU immigrants face greater delays, uncertainty and obstacles to secure their future in Germany than in nearly all MIPEX countries, similar only to neighbouring Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. For example, immigrants face greater obstacles to reunite their families or access justice as victims of discrimination in Germany than in most Western European/OECD countries. Germany is also now one of the few Western European countries that still restricts dual nationality.
This sense of insecurity partly explains Germany’s below-average levels of nationality acquisition and differences in political participation and sense of belonging between people in Germany with and without a migration background. In terms of public opinion, Germany’s ‘Temporary Integration’ approach encourages the public to see immigrants as their neighbours, but also as foreigners and not as the equals of native German citizens.
A country’s integration policies matter because the way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Drawing on 130 independent scientific studies using MIPEX, integration policies emerge as one of the strongest factors shaping not only the public’s willingness to accept and interact with immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes, belonging, participation and even health in their new home country.
Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries with comprehensive policies treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens, and invest in integration as a two-way process for society. Germany’s policies are less comprehensive when compared to other Nordic countries, neighbouring Belgium and Luxembourg or the traditional destination countries. Compared to countries with comprehensive policies, Germany’s policies are most similar to Norway. More broadly, Germany can learn from all its neighbours: from Nordic countries’ approaches to residence policies, education and political participation, from France and Benelux countries on access to nationality and anti-discrimination and from Austria and Switzerland on migrant health policies.
- Labour market mobility: Favourable: Ranked in the international Top Ten in this area, Germany reinforced its support for equal opportunities for non-EU immigrants to progress into stable quality employment, One international area of strength are Germany’s targeted support measures as well as its improving procedures to recognise foreign qualifications and skills. In terms of weaknesses, not all temporary residents enjoy immediate access to the labour market, vocational training or public sector jobs. Based on two dozen independent scientific studies using MIPEX, strong policies like these may help working immigrant men and women to improve their language and professional skills, careers and public acceptance.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Ranking in the international Bottom Ten in this area, Germany’s family reunification policies are more restrictive than most Western European/OECD countries in terms of the delays, eligibility restrictions for sponsors and the language test abroad. Besides those major differences, the requirements are largely the same as most countries and reunited non-EU families enjoy only a slightly secure status. Based on around 20 scientific studies linking MIPEX to families’ integration outcomes, these policies may have a significant impact on whether immigrant families reunite, settle down in the country, find jobs and a better place to live and age with dignity.
- Education: Halfway favourable: Since the 2015/6 large-scale arrivals, education policies have slightly improved as a priority for integration policies in Germany, with slightly above-average policies for Western European/OECD countries. Through greater federal and state standards and guidance, Germany has gone halfway to address immigrant pupils' specific needs and opportunities at all school levels. Compared to the International Top Ten (e.g. Nordics and traditional destination countries) German states do slightly less to require that schools guarantee equal access to levels of the education system and target immigrant pupils’ needs through comprehensive orientation, language support and teacher trainings. Around 20 scientific studies have tried to identify the specific role that these policies play. These policies may not only help to close achievement gaps for vulnerable groups on different education tracks but also help all pupils to develop a common sense of pride, safety and belonging at school.
- Health: Slightly favourable: Germany’s approach to migrant health changed little from 2014 to 2019 and remains average for Western European/OECD countries. While Germany’s healthcare services continue to improve their ability to respond to migrant patients' specific needs, state and federal policies still lack a comprehensive approach and limit entitlements and access for undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers. Inclusive integration policies can help to reduce gaps in health equity in terms of immigrants’ reported health, chronic illnesses, elderly diabetes and frailty and, even, mortality.
- Political participation: Slightly favourable: With an approach similar to most Western European countries, Germany’s policies to consult and support immigrant civil society may not be sufficient to close the gaps in political participation, unless greater action is taken for ongoing information, immigrant-led structures, local voting rights and/or naturalisation. More inclusive policies could help to close the democratic deficit in political participation, engagement, trust and satisfaction between immigrants and the general public.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: Like most Western European/OECD countries, Germany only goes halfway to facilitate the path to permanent residence and secure socio-economic rights. Due to EU law, Germany and other EU countries implemented many of the same eligibility rules, procedures and rights for national and EU long-term residents. The major difference is that Germany demands that non-EU citizens be more fluent and more economically self-sufficient than on average. Income and language requirements could be more realistic and flexible based on immigrants' individual progress and efforts. The limited MIPEX research on permanent residence suggests that inclusive policies encourage immigrants to stay long-term, settle down and secure better jobs.
- Access to nationality: Halfway favourable: Since 1999, permanent residents face a clear but demanding path to German citizenship. They also receive the support they need to succeed as new citizens through affordable courses and promotional materials. However, Germany is the last major destination country still enforcing a general ban on dual nationality (see recent governmental reviews and reforms in Denmark, Norway, Czechia and Poland). Germany, like half the MIPEX countries, also makes citizenship conditional upon an applicant’s income/economic situation. These core requirements are major factors behind Germany’s below-average naturalisation rates. More inclusive policies may boost not only some immigrants’ naturalisation rates, but also their public acceptance, socio-economic status, political participation, sense of belonging and trust.
- Anti-discrimination: Slightly favourable: Germany’s anti-discrimination policies are slightly weaker than the average European country. While the legal framework has continued to improve over time across the EU, including in DE in 2008, its laws may be ineffective against discrimination because potential victims do not get the support they need from one of the weakest set of enforcement mechanisms, equality bodies and policies among MIPEX countries. Stronger policies can help to improve public attitudes, discrimination awareness, reporting and trust in institutions, society and democracy. For example, the EU-MIDIS 2016 survey found that discriminated immigrants in Germany were less likely to know report their case to authorities than discriminated immigrants in EU countries with stronger anti-discrimination policies on MIPEX.